Yoruba agenda as template for restructuring
Nigeria has been held spell-bound as if under some implacable imprecation. Her constitution is a weasel word of inexactitudes. Her ethnic nationalities habour mutual recriminations and misgivings concerning their respective covenant place in the union. The sub-national units labour under the dead weight of a relationship that is decreed as non-negotiable or which terms may not be allowed to be revisited or reviewed.
Her ordinary citizens are short-changed by policies and programmes that are at variance with the nomenclature of their ordained citizenry or of the stake -holding membership of a promised “socially responsive, economically buoyant and self-reliant political entity”. Nigeria is alarmingly in the throes of an eruptive volcano, metaphorically speaking. It is strange to observe that some notable vested interests refuse to discern the gathering gloom and so are glibly dismissive of honest and cerebral attempts to reverse the impending doom through the instrumentality of true, sincere and pragmatic recommendations for the restructuring of the polity.
In a properly articulated submission vide a draft memorandum prepared at the end of a meeting held on April 6, 1994 at Abeokuta, leaders of thought including Obas, Chiefs, notable politicians, etc from Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo states of Nigeria representing the people of the south-west geo-political zone presented their considered view on the vexed issue of the political restructuring of Nigeria. The assemblage was and still is a true reflection of “who’s who” among the Yoruba educated and prescribed elite. Ekiti State was yet in the womb of time even as it was a veritable part of Ondo State. A follow-up meeting held at Akure on May 11, 1994 duly approved the memorandum which can justifiably be described as the popular agenda of the Yoruba people of Nigeria regarding the inflexible requirement to restructure Nigeria politically.
Listen to the deep conviction or clear-headed ruminations of a prescient people: “We are convinced that the cause of Nigeria’s federalism will be well and truly advanced if we return to the pre-1966 evolutionary path: a balanced federal structure which recognises fully the legitimate claims of all ethnic groups for self-determination and where no single entity among the federating units is large enough both in terms of size and population as well as of resources to be viable, self-reliant and dynamic. Other relevant factors include the homogeneity of each federating unit, geographical contiguity among the units of a region and demonstrable willingness to be together.
In pursuance of the principle of self-determination and in the interest of sustainability, any state or community shall have the opportunity to decide, through the democratic process, the Region of its choice in the light of these criteria. In the light of these criteria, we propose the restructuring of Nigeria into six federating units to be known as Regions. The six Regions shall be Western, Eastern, Southern, North-Western, North Eastern and Middle Belt Regions. The Western Region will group together the following states: Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Osun and Oyo and all other Yoruba speaking communities wherever they may be in the Federation. The states that will constitute the other Regions will be decided by their people subject to the observation of the principle of self-determination.”
They reasoned further: “The function of the Federal Government must be clearly spelt out. Residual powers must be with the Regions. The Federal Government shall have no power to interfere in or take over any function of the Regional Government. Similarly it shall have no power to interfere with the operations of any Regional Government. Each Region shall determine the number, function and power of its constituent institutions.
The National Assembly shall be bi-cameral: House of the People and the Upper House. Members shall be elected or designated for a period of four years with the possibility of re-election. Membership of the House of the People shall be by universal suffrage with constituencies delineated on the basis of population, contiguity, homogeneity and territorial expanse. Each Region shall send an equal number of representatives to the Upper House, one quarter of whom must be traditional rulers from within that Region. Each Region will be free to determine the basis and method of election/selection of its representation to that House.
The Head of Government shall be the Prime Minister who shall be appointed by the President. The person to be so appointed shall be the leader of the party or of a coalition of parties which has the support of the majority of the members of the House of the People. Whenever he loses such support he shall resign or be dismissed. The Prime Minister shall be free to form his Government which must receive the immediate endorsement of the House of the People through a vote of confidence. The Prime Minister shall resign or be dismissed whenever the majority of the House of the People withdraws its support.
There shall be provision for power sharing in the constitution; power configuration shall be accorded a zoning status on rotational basis. For this purpose, five key portfolios (such as Internal Affairs and Petroleum) in addition to the office of the Prime Minister, shall be identified in the constitution and be assigned to five Deputy Prime Ministers drawn from five Regions, other than the Region from which the Prime Minister hails. For avoidance of doubt the Prime Minister, the Deputy Prime Ministers and all members of Government shall be elected members of the House of the People.
• Rotimi-John, a lawyer and commentator on public affairs, wrote from Abuja, FCT.